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Golden Ball winner Forlan joins Cerezo

Kyodo

Cerezo Osaka on Thursday confirmed that the J. League club has reached a one-year deal with Uruguay striker Diego Forlan, winner of the Golden Ball Award as the most valuable player at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Cerezo had been in negotiations to acquire the 34-year-old Forlan since last autumn and club president Masao Okano, who was informed that the deal had gone through early Thursday morning, said, “(Forlan) will be playing for Cerezo this season.”

The news was met with a mixture of joy and surprise from Cerezo’s players.

“I really never thought he would end up being a teammate,” said midfielder Takahiro Ogihara.

Hotaru Yamaguchi added, “He is a player that can do anything. He has got a fantastic shot with either his right or left foot and his free kicks will be a source of goals.”

Manager Ranko Popovic said, “As a player and a human being I would like him to be a role model for the younger players.”

Former Independiente, Manchester United, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan striker Forlan said in a post on his Twitter account on Wednesday that he had signed a contract with Cerezo until December.

He will leave Brazilian club Internacional, where he had been since 2012, to join Cerezo. Internacional said on their official website that Forlan’s contract has been terminated.

A two-time leading scorer in Spain’s La Liga, Forlan was the joint top scorer with five goals at the 2010 World Cup, where he helped Uruguay reach the semifinals.

He impressed against Japan in a friendly in August last year, scoring twice as Uruguay won 4-2 in Miyagi.

“I’ve played in Japan three or four times and always enjoyed the atmosphere in the stadiums, what culture I’ve seen and the people have always been very friendly,” Forlan was quoted as saying in a report in The National.

“I’m really looking forward to joining Cerezo and doing my best for my new team.”

Forlan was quoted as saying he has no fears about the J. League hampering his chances of being in the Uruguay squad for this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

“It’s not the Premier League or La Liga, but the standard of football is high, improving and the league is very competitive,” he told The National.

“I saw Cerezo draw with Manchester United preseason and they were praised for playing so well. I’m also in really good condition and want to play for as long as possible. Cerezo are a well established club with huge support in from a big city. I’m really excited about the move.”

Cerezo, the former club of Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa, finished fourth in the J. League last season and have qualified for this year’s Asian Champions League.